The Occult: Hollywood or Holy War?

By Rev. Christian Tiews

Books and movies on angels, demons, exorcisms, and the occult have been popular for years. Are supernatural things just a clever moneymaker, or are they really in the Bible—and thus to be taken seriously?

Angels and Demons
We do, in fact, find angels all throughout the Bible—whether as messengers in Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), announcing to Mary that she would conceive our Lord and Savior (Luke 2), or at the empty tomb (Mark 16). In the Book of Revelation we even see whole armies of angels as warriors. What about demons? These are former angels who rebelled against God and, as punishment, were cast out of heaven (Luke 10:18). Demonic activity occurs throughout the New Testament (Matthew 8, Luke 10, Acts 19, Revelation 12, etc.). In fact, did you know that the casting out of demons is Jesus’ second most common miracle in the Gospels? The leader of the demons is Lucifer (Latin for “The Light Bearer”), also known as Morning Star (Isaiah 14:12), Apollyon (Revelation 9:11), Abaddon (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Revelation), a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), the Evil One (Matthew 13, John 17, Ephesians 6, etc.), or Satan (the accuser, all throughout Scripture). Being a former angel, Satan is only a creature. Therefore, he is not capable of producing anything original and he is not all-powerful and present everywhere as God is but he is a deceiver, tempter, and accuser. The Evil One is also a con artist, taking the good things of God and twisting them into evil. Some examples: Darwinian evolution is a counterfeit of creation. Works righteousness is a counterfeit of salvation through Christ alone. We find works righteousness in all religions except Christianity, with the claim that humans can “work” their way to God/heaven/Nirvana, etc. Some counterfeits of the legitimate intimacy between husband and wife are fornication, pornography, and “gay marriage.”

The Occult
The occult (that is, the “hidden” supernatural activities of the Evil One and his demons) is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments (Exodus 7, Leviticus 19-20, Deuteronomy 18, Acts 8, 13, Galatians 5, etc.) and includes mediums, psychics, and necromancers (people who communicate with the spirit world and the dead), sorcery, black magic, etc. What does the Bible say about the occult? Hands off! Don’t mess with it!

So you see, the Bible discusses the supernatural and thus it is quite real—not just a figment of Hollywood’s imagination. The problem is that our Western culture tends to hide its head in the sand and pretend that the supernatural is nothing more than myths and fables. But closing your eyes does not make something go away. Interestingly, most cultures outside of Western civilization are very much aware of the supernatural. It is we—the “enlightened” people in Europe and North America—who have blinded ourselves to this unseen reality!

So what’s behind all of this? Ephesians 6:12 reveals: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

This Bible passage, in addition to many others (2 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Timothy 1:18, Revelation 12:9, etc.), shows us that spiritual warfare is real. By the way, this line of thinking is also fully in line with Lutheran teaching: “If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies” (Large Catechism III, 65). In fact, demons and evil spirits are still being cast out in the name of Jesus, except we now have a special word for it: exorcism.

You Are Armed
On the Cross and by the empty tomb our Lord defeated death and Satan—the deceiver, tempter, and accuser. Jesus Christ fights our spiritual battles for us in His “whole armor of God:” the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, Gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and prayer (Ephesians 6:10-19). All of these riches are embodied in the Means of Grace, which you regularly receive in the Divine Service. I don’t know about you, but knowing that spiritual warfare is real makes me want to receive Christ’s gifts and protection of Word and Sacrament all the more. These Means of Grace are my body armor, flak jacket, and IED-repelling Humvee in the spiritual war zone!

So, DO NOT explore the things of Satan and meddle with Ouija boards, the occult, fortunetellers, psychics, etc. But DO make going to church regularly a life-long habit, DO receive the Sacrament regularly, read Scripture daily, and lead a “godly life” (1 Timothy 2:2). But most of all, remember that you do not have to fight against Satan, the tempter and accuser, and his demons, because the reality is that Jesus Christ has ALREADY won the war for you. And because Jesus has won, you have won as well!

Rev. Christian C. Tiews serves as the associate pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He can be reached at RevTiews@glctulsa.org